An Australian's perspective on life in the Welsh capital

Sunday, 27 November 2016

Where should we live in Cardiff? (vol. I)

So, the great flat hunt of 2016 has begun...

As a Londoner, one of the most exciting things about moving to Cardiff is the ability to buy a house. An actual, space-for-everything, backyard-and-BBQ, grand-piano-in-the-second-living-room type house. All of this without needing to commute for two hours each way and/or giving away your firstborn.

However! House hunting from another city is, unsurprisingly, rather difficult. Not having lived in Cardiff before, I have no idea what areas I might like and can only guess based on place names (Splott, for some reason, makes me think of bright colours and artsy cartoonist types). My husband, who shall be known as the Returning Cardiffian (RC), hasn't lived here for almost a decade and of course things have changed in that time. So to buy us time to hunt for the perfect house, we thought we'd opt for a short term rental, allowing us to spend a leisurely few months looking in different areas and find something that's just right for us.

This brings us to yesterday, day one of the hunt. We started by looking at some places between central Cardiff and Cardiff Bay, an area that has undergone redevelopment and regeneration in the past decade or so, with lots of new flats intermingling with some existing properties and structures. Location-wise, it's perfect for us- walkable to the city and Cardiff Central Station (as RC will probably be communing back to London for a while), and cheaper than super-central Cardiff. It's also walkable to the Bay, which I love (more on that later).

We started our search on Lloyd George Avenue, one of the main roads linking the city centre to the Bay, before moving a few streets over to the various complexes off Dumball Road. To be honest there are are some rough patches- a substantial set of warehouses which looked mostly abandoned, and some fenced off areas which were overgrown. That said, there are some very lovely things as well- the Taff River, which snakes along looking beautiful, the Depot (I was sold as soon as I heard the words "indoor street food market") and even a Deliveroo man who, when cycling past, asked how we were doing on this lovely day (a thing which both RC and I agree would never, ever happen in London). I think this is the area we will make our first home in Cardiff and be the springboard for us to get to know the city properly and see where we want to end up. 

View of Taff River
View of the Taff River from one of the flats we viewed
  Once we had finished up the viewings (6 flats in two hours, smashed it!) we needed to get our thoughts together and, more importantly, eat. Given the close proximity, we headed down to the Bay to refuel and see if we could make some decisions about the flats we'd seen. It was icy cold and so being somewhere warm with properly comforting food was essential. As RC has been having some problems with his tooth recently I gravitated towards Wagamama; always delicious and also lots of options like soup and soft noodles for the dentally challenged. We were quickly seated (I think it will take me a while to stop being overly pleased at not having to wait for a table) and whilst I have my Wagamama favourite (ginger chicken udon), I was tempted by the Omakase Menu (short rib ramen! Grilled duck donburi!), settling on the steak bulgogi, a delicious combination of grilled steak, aubergine, spicy noodles, kimchi and half a tea stained egg. The beef was flavourful and tender, and the aubergine cooked just how I like it- chewy caramelised skin with a completely soft inside, soaking up the delicious sweet and spicy sauce on the noodles. A sprinkling of micro-coriander added extra tastiness. RC opted for the chicken katsu- there is always a discussion about trying something new but in the end, chicken katsu wins out-too good not to opt for it! 
Steak bulgogi from Wagamama
The delightful steak bulgogi- steak, caramelised aubergines and spicy noodles of deliciousness
  Once we had warmed up and with fuller tummies, we headed for one of my favourite places in the Bay- Fabulous Welshcakes. The magic of a warm chocolate chip welsh cake is difficult to pass, and this place truly is the best- so much so that for my wedding last year, we ordered 120 cakes from Fabulous Welshcakes in particular to show off this piece of Welsh goodness to the Aussies. I won't go on about it now because this shop deserves its own post- let's just say that I left with three dozen cakes (including a dozen still warm from the griddle) and an increasing sense of excitement that this will soon be in walking distance.  
Before leaving the Bay we had time for a quick drink and catch up with RC's best mate. We grabbed a booth at The Dock, where I was going to have a warming drink until I spotted the selection of gins behind the bar-ooh! Remaining cold would totally be worth it! I opted for the Brockmans serve, a copa balloon glass of ice, blueberries, grapefruit and tangy, blackcurrant-y Brockmans gin. Nice one- I sense I may come back to this one.... watch this space!  

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